New National Plant Collection of Fuchsia cultivars for Plant Heritage

The Collection is held by Norfolk based Kristopher Harper, who developed his love of fuchsias from his grandfather. Unbeknown to Kristopher his grandfather’s family owned a fuchsia nursery in Wiltshire and previously tried to build a similar Collection at their nursery, but this was lost when the nursery closed.
With an interest in building a Collection, Kristopher was keen to maintain a Wiltshire link and James Lye seemed the ideal man.
Born in Market Lavington, Wiltshire, James Lye was a renowned Victorian prize-winning fuchsia grower and shower, who worked for the Hon Mrs Louisa Hay (sister of the Earl of Radnor) of Clyffe Hall, Market Lavington. He exhibited many of his own fuchsia introductions and earned himself the title of ‘Champion Fuchsia Grower in the West of England.’

James developed the now recognised typical Victorian sense of grandeur and became renowned for growing his fuchsias in the style of pyramids, the results being quite magnificent at between 5ft to 9ft tall. James is thought to have bred over 100 cultivars between 1860 and 1901 and his cultivars are known for their similar characteristics which make them easy to identify; a single corolla, sepals that are thick and waxy and nearly always white.

Over time 70 cultivars have been lost. A number of these plants may still be found and Kristopher is currently looking for two specific cultivars, ‘Nellie’ and ‘James Welch.’ Speaking on his search Kristopher said: “I feel sure that a number of these plants may still be growing in private gardens, admired by their owners who are unaware of their true identity or importance. Have a closer look!”

 Kristopher started collecting and researching the fuchsias that are attributed to James Lye in 2009 and has collected 28 cultivars which he has sourced from nursery stock and private collections within the UK, but plans to widen this search to Europe and America. 
He is keen to discover more about the Victorian plantsman, the cultivars he introduced and the people they are attributed to and is happy for people to approach him if they can help in his search for missing cultivars.
Speaking on the announcement of this new Collection, Plant Heritage Plant Conservation officer Mercy Morris said: “Kristopher Harper’s collection really goes to the heart of what Plant Heritage is all about, finding and conserving the rich heritage of our plantsmen and growers.”
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